If your sales team’s performance is not all that you think it should be, maybe you need to make some changes. Here are three mindsets for developing your action plan to transform your team’s performance.
You cannot tolerate mediocrity.
Every sales manager has one thing in common: a minimum producer. And the questions you have to ask yourself are, “Is the current level of sales from my minimum producer acceptable to me or not?” and then “Is it OK for the rest of my team to know that I tolerate this low level of production?”
For many sales managers I talk to the answer is no. Then I ask them this: “How long has this minimum producer been on your team?” Common answers are 12 months, 18 months, 5 years. In other words, far too long.
Another way to look at this is to ask yourself: “If I knew back then what I know now, is there anybody currently on my sales team that I would not have hired?”
If you have someone on your team that you would not hire again, or if you have tolerated a low producer for a year or more, the sooner you do something about it the better. Maybe the time has come to “de-hire” those on your team who are not contributing to your mission!
Hire every new salesperson TWICE.
All too often sales managers become distracted away from developing salespeople because they are chasing the big deals, which tends to lead them to spend too much time with their most tenured and productive salespeople (that’s likely where the big deals are “cooking”). They can lose sight of their newer hires at the very moment when that salesperson reaches the “sink or swim” point.
That’s why I tell sales managers that they should assign two hire dates to each new employee: The first is the day a new salesperson starts for your company. The 2nd is when the new salesperson attains six months of tenure. That’s when you need to re-evaluate whether the new person is truly committed to the opportunity and your company.
Having a 2nd hire date will cause you to re-focus on observing the behaviors and activities that your new hire is (or is not) doing. If, upon your observation, your 6-month rep lacks the skills to succeed at this point, you can coach ’em up. If, on the other hand, your new rep lacks the willingness to succeed, well, that’s a different problem. If your salesperson lacks the will to learn what they need to learn to be successful, re-read strategy #1 about not tolerating mediocrity.
Address any motivation problems (and the underlying lack of will or skill)
There are two possible causes for a lack of motivation in a salesperson: One is just that…. an individual may lack the desire to apply themselves. If that’s the case, you as the manager need to take two steps: First, talk with the salesperson about their goals, both professional and personal. See if you can identify what will motivate the person (money, recognition, etc.) and see that he or she gets the opportunity to improve. Second, if improvement doesn’t happen, once gain go back to step 1 above (do not tolerate mediocrity!).
A 2nd common cause of a rep’s motivation problem, the cause that managers frequently overlook, is a lack of confidence. And it’s your job to help the person develop the skills and gain the confidence they need to succeed.
For example, suppose a salesperson has not seen the expected results despite doing a lot of prospecting for new business. So they begin to doubt themselves and wonder “why make more prospecting calls when it’s just a waste of time?” To the manager, this salesperson appears to have a lack of willingness to prospect. But actually it is a lack of skill to prospect effectively that leads to a lack of success and then to the loss in commitment to develop new leads.
You will only be able to diagnose this second kind of motivation problem if you are an effective coach. Spend time observing your reps in action so you will know what they are good at and where they struggle. Coach them before they make calls or presentations to help them think through all the issues they should be considering.
As a sales manager you can pontificate all you want about your commitment to excellence and how you have high expectations of your salespeople. While these are certainly admirable desires, we all learned at an early age that actions speak louder than words. So if you have salespeople who are not producing, find out why and take action. Do your best to find the right motivators for your team members and provide them with the skills they need to succeed, then take action if they do not justify your commitment to them.